Building student involvement, fostering civic engagement and enhancing community service to advance public health. 

Four students from the ‘Health Literacy Intensive’ course  travelled with Professor Dolan to Anaheim, CA in early May to attend and present at the Institute of Healthcare Advancement’s 15th annual Health Literacy Conference: Creating a Vision for Health Literacy’s FutureKim Meyers (D18), Mikenah Vega (D18), David Somoza-Valle (D19), and Anne-Marie Vu (D19) presented a poster on the Health Literacy Intensive course for the 1st and 2nd year dental students at TUSDM, which was very well received! Tufts was the only dental school who presented at the conference and the only organization that sent students. Read on for their reflections!

David Somoza (D19):
Attending the IHA health literacy conference was a great learning experience. The teach-back training was my favorite part of the conference as well as presenting our poster. I’m excited to apply what I learned and hope to share that information with my peers.

Anne-Marie Vu (D19):
Attending the Health Literacy Conference last week was am amazing experience. I learned that the field of health literacy is just emerging, and we are so lucky to have the HLI (health literacy intensive) program as a resource at TUSDM. It was exciting to meet with a diverse population of health professionals including educators for nurses and medical school students, librarians, staff members to organized and ran hospital programs, and public health professionals. One of the most insightful talks that we went to was a talk on the teach-back method. The concept of this idea is that to confirm whether or not someone understands something that you have taught them, you should have the individual teach you what you just taught them. This simple tool was mentioned, emphasized and repeated in multiple talks as well as in discussions at our Tufts HLI meetings. It was shocking to me that schools do not focus, emphasize or have integrated the teach-back method as part of their curriculum. Countless mistakes such as overdose or improperly taking a medication could be prevented with this simple tool. This was just one of many tools that we learned about at the conference–there are so many simple ways to increase patient health literacy in order to improve the quality of life. I am hopeful that health literacy awareness will grow until it becomes a norm in our society.

Mikenah Vega (D18):
I had such a blast at the Health Literacy Conference. It was a great opportunity to network with leaders of the health literacy field and brainstorm with my classmates who attended about how we can make our school a health literate organization. My favorite activity was a teach-back workshop where we learned how to effectively communicate with our patients and then, how to make sure they understood what we taught them. I can’t wait to use the tools I learned with my patients as I enter clinic.

Kimberly Meyers (D18):
This conference was an incredible experience! It was moving being around so many professionals  who are fully committed to creating a more health literate care system for everyone.  Attendees were from all over the country and from a vast array of professions. The presentations we heard were thought provoking and inspirational.  Goal setting for the future of the field was a big mission of the conference.  We were the only group of professional students at the conference and virtually the only ones from the dental field, as a result I really think our presence and poster made an impact at the event.  I didn’t realize before this conference how unique of an opportunity the Health Literacy Intensive course is at TUSDM.  Hardly anywhere else in the country offers pre-doctoral students the opportunity to be exposed to health literacy in the way that we have.  It was awesome to feel like we inspired others to take what they learned about our course to start similar early education opportunties at their own institutions. As a student starting to see my own patients for the first time, I feel incredibly lucky to know enough about plain-language and teach back techniques to incorporate them into my clinical care from the get go.  My hope is that practicing health literacy principles will become second nature for me and that my peers will graduate being able to say the same.  For TUSDM, I hope it becomes a goal of the school to possess all the attributes to of a ‘Health Literate Health Care Institution’, we’re already on the right track!